Over a period of time, I had refelcted upon my religion and spirituality, and that has been a very enlightening journey. There were times, when I considered that religion is cause of all problems, and also periods where I thought that religion stands in way of progress and modernity. But I had moved on from those times.
I have realised that my religion doesnt stand in way of progress, rather complement it. I do think to be a progressive liberal person, you dont have to be an atheist or agnostic, though it is fashionable. I have always wondered why ‘educated’ hindu people spoke degradingly about their own religion, or refused to defend it when attacked. Most of the time it pointed me towards the fact that there is a lack of awareness and clarity of their own religion in their mind.
It has been great journey in rediscovering my religion, to have friends who set me into thinking, gave good criticisms and helped me along the journey. Sanotsh also had been of quite good help in understanding my religion better. Further to his entry on religion, he has wrote more about hindu dharma and its spirituality with clarity.
One of my friends told me an interesting story, when I was in school. It was about the pearl oysters. Pearl oysters are creatures that live in sea beds and river bottoms. He said that they would come up, take in a drop of water, and go down to the sea bed. Now the little drop is processed within its shells for years together and after a series of metamorphosis, the drop gets transformed into the precious gemstone which we call the pearl.
There is a beautiful philosophy contained in this little piece of fiction. Each great teaching of the upanishads,the Bhagawat Gita and the other sacred verses is like that tiny little drop of water. They are unharvested pearls, perhaps. When a layman receives them, it remains the same drop till his end, he never grows beyond this level.
Noble souls receive them, carry the same in their hearts, nurture them in their thoughts, words, and deeds, until at last, their life becomes a manifestation of the ideal they behold. The small little drop of water has now turned into a pearl within them. The world has now something to receive from them.
We have all heard the principles of “detachment” in the Gita and the teachings of the upanishads like “Sathyam Vadha, Dharmam Chara, Mathru Devo bhava, Pithru Devo Bhava, Acharya Devo Bhava, Adhiti Devo Bhava, ithyupanishadu”. “Sathyam Vadha” this sweet little verse , so simple and straight in its form, and still so profound in its meaning and potency. Itis from Thaithireeya upanishad. I many times wonder, how the sages, who have many a time composed complicated poetic constructions at various contexts, become extremely simple and straight in their language when they wish to impart invaluable instructions to humanity.
Now as a disciple learns this little verse, at first it sinks into him in its seedular form(tatwam). As he begins to practice this, his mind becomes more disciplined. He realizes that he would utter truth alone, every time he speaks. Odds shall come in life, many times, mind may be challenged, tempted, forced, to utter a lie, but still, he overcomes them with steady determination and steadfastedness of his mind. (Fa-hein has recorded the life of early brahmins who would refuse to say a lie, even if that would mean that their lives were at stake).
The light of his ideal receives a newer glow within him, that is the reward he receives for these acts of perseverence. Slowly even the very thoughts that come to his mind will be the essence of pure truth. The perspective with which he sees his own ideal, acquires newer dimensions. As his principle sinks inward, from the conscious to the subconscious realms of mind, even the most dormant impressions, feelings, attitudes and passions too will contain truth and nothing but pure grains of truth.
“As You think, so you speak, As You speak, so you act, and your thoughts come from the depths of truth that dwells deep with in you” – this is his state now. Nature herself will oblige such a person, it is said, what ever is uttered by him, may be inadvertently, is also bound to come true. Truth is now not just a word, Life itself has become truth.
As he walks further, the mind moves more towards the subtler realms of truth of life, and it begins to experience more, the joy of the higher truths, the truth that holds the universe, the bliss of eternity, the oneness of the absolute truth. His life is now that of perennial joy, unaffected by the ups and downs of the worldly events, he is like a loose bubble on the surface of a lake, free from the joys and sorrows of the ephemeral, his mind ever remaining in the eternal bliss of the truth of existence.
This is a state of paramahamsa, the one who has realized the ultimate truth of life, the one who sees the same truth in everything existant and nonexistant, the one for whom the heavenly water of ganges and the water that runs through the drainage canal would mean one and the same. Yes, he would drink both with the same perennial joy, the one who would eat sumptously or goes days together without food, one who would sleep alike with the dogs in the street or in the palace of a prince-He is a paramahamsa- the highest state of bliss in spiritual evolvement. This is the state of ‘kevalananda” (the non-relativistic or the absolute joy).
This is a state, after achieving which there is nothing to achieve. Bhagavatam says that the acts of a paramahamsa and that of a beggar would look alike. However, the former is a prince,much beyond a comparison for the princes of all worlds over all the times. At its pinnacle, the seeker merges, becomes one with the principle sought and this is liberation.
And this is that great process of evolution. This is the essence of divinity, by which that one ‘single drop of water’ has now become the absolute pearl. This is the glory of ‘abhyasa’, the power of perseverence. This is the meaning of the verse “uthishttatha Jaagratha, prapyavaraan nibhodhatha” (Arise, Awake, and rest not till the goal is achieved). The drop is immaterial. One would choose the one that one likes, but the ultimate goal remains the one supreme bliss of eternity.
When Buddha used to walk through the forests, even the wild animals used to remain calm – it is said. Buddha had become an embodiment of pure love. He was pure love in his wholesome. This is the secret of yoga. Meerabhai, the great devotee of Krishna is a striking example of bhakti yoga. Bhagawatham gives details of so many great souls who merged with the Lord by bhakti yoga.
Naradha bhakti sutra is the authoritative text on Bhakthi yoga.In the Bhagavat Gita, Krishna says Arjuna, that of all the yogas,Bhakthi yoga is the sweetest, simplest and fastest. The ancient rishis, has given us so many methods of taming the mind and directing the same towards God. Mind, intellect and body are the instruments in our pursuit of God realisation. Mind in its nature is extremely fickle. Krishna has said that it is an extremely difficult task to tame the mind, it verily acts as the one supreme enemy in the pursuit of self realization, yet once properly channelised will become our best companion in our spiritual quest.
When a disciple first develops a love for god, it is the beginning. It is the seed, it is that ‘tiny drop of water’. The more he thinks on god, the more the concept sinks into him. Some may turn philosophical, some may become analytical, some may turn intuitive, and yet all, by exersicing some facuty of mind, try to approach more towards the one abstraction of God, the one pointer that would transcend all the faculties of mind.
Sree Ramakrishna who sat before the idol of Kaali in the Kaali temple in Dakshineswar, illustrates to us, the power of Bhakti yoga. As a devotee sits infront of an idol, his mind focusses on the form infront. This invokes in him the concept of his god. Noble feelings of Love, and bhakthi springs from within and fills his mind. A feeling of serinity and peace is felt in his mind. The presence of god is felt around and mind enjoys that joy of tranquillity and bliss. This is the first foundation stone that is laid in his mind in his path of bhakthi yoga.
As he continues this practice, his eyes continue to focuss on the forms, the hand does the puja, and lips continue to repeat the holy names of the Lord, mind develops more and more love and devotion towards his god. In these Later stages, even the very mention of the idol would trigger off nobler emotions and tranquillity in his mind.
Mind is cleansed by the continued generation of nobler thoughts that survive over the baser selfish instincts dormant in the dark corners of the subconscious mind. The repetition of names of God could bring in the mind continued rememberence of god as mind always adheres to the form the words produce. And the rememberence of the form, would kindle higher levels of thoughts and feelings and bring the same from its depths to its surface. Thus the mind is purified and becomes fertile for God-realisation. This is the secret of japa yoga.
This is similar to pouring water continuosly into an old inkpot. At first stains of ink that will come out along with water will be more. As we continue pouring water, more and more clear water will flow out of the ink pot and finally what comes out will be completely clear water. The japas & the namasankeerthans, penetrate into the subconscious, expell the darkness and fill the same with the light of serinity and spiritual bliss.
As one proceeds further, he would see his idol in his mind in the form of bright light. It is more than the solid form. This is in the form of ‘thej’ or aura. Slowly, he would experience this form in its essence, filling every nook and corner of the space. He can also experience this ‘ thej’ associated with the meaning of everything he sees and hears in this universe.
At some stage, diversities of the different forms of god could disturb a devotee, but soon he attains the stage where every concept, every form of god would appeal to him in essence as his personal form of god alone. This stage too would go and, finally every form, every word, every sacred verse, all would trigger the same god intoxication to his mind. Mind goes beyond the diversities of the forms and names and identifies the tranquillity beneath all these as God.
I can remember the moments I have stood before Sabarimala Ayyappa, sastha temple at perumbavoor, Guruvayoor temple, Chottanikkara and the various Siva temples. This is Where all the different systems of Yoga, unite into one. Eyes worship the “sthoolaswaroopa”(the gross physical form), mind perceives the “Thejaswaroppa”(the aura form), the intellect surrenders before the “jnanaswaroppa” and in the depths of Your self, Your heart “experience” the bliss of the “sachidaananda swaroopa”, the one beyond forms and names.All this are in perfect harmony and occur in that very single moment,in unison as a devotee stands before his diety, with feelings of devotion.
I do remember my mind flooding with emotion as I read the bhagawatham and other puranas, the story of jesus christ, his compassion towards the mariya the prostitute can even now, as i write this, fill my heart with emotions, and eyes with tears. At the core of the heart, the divinity of the feelings, the essence of the tranquillity, remains the same behind all the myriad forms and names that describe it. And verily, I declare, no true devotee can find a distinction between two forms of god.and too, no one is a devotee who cannot appreciate another form of god, or another aspect, another label of god as equally true.
These are not to be told just as words, da. This should come from the very core of a man, as the only possible natural way. And this is true, it surely comes and it can only be that way. Else you should discover that there is something wrong in your spiritual practice. As he proceeds further, intensity of love and passion gets higher and higher, one sees nothing else but God, worldly attachment disappears slowly. A devotee is jubiliant, at the very mention, very thought of God, his mind flies towards his realm every now and then. He sees everything as God, hears everything as God, speaks, thinks, feels and perceives everything as God.
Even the distinction between form and formlessness do not disturb him. Mind conceives form and formlessness as two aspects of one and the same abstraction, that is beyond. The Mind goes to the core layer of conceptive faculty, from where even the form and formlessness mean one and the same, generates one and the same feeling of joy.
In the story of Gajendramoksha, it is the Nirguna Bhrahma that is worshipped by the Gajendra. Mahavishnu came, The Rishi says, to the rescue of his devotee. Our Rishis had reached this stage where they saw form and formlessness as one and the same. This is the higher state of mind a devotee attains. At its climax, he surrenders his ego fully unto God. He surrenders every thought, every emotion, every feeling, above all, his own self unto the Lord. He is beyond all concepts of god, all appears one and the same to him, which is nothing but pure experience of perennial joy. He has crossed the stages of sameepya, saroopya… and attains sayoojya. He is the jeevan muktha the one who has attained liberation in this very life.
This is the climax of bhakthi Yoga, a sweet journey of transformation to the final gem from the initial ‘little drop’. Infact this is the climax of every yoga. Krishna speaks of mainly six different systems of Yoga. One may practice one or more of the different yogas, like the bhakthi yoga, jnana yoga, karmayoga and the like, perfect them in their lives till they attain liberation.
Sree Ramakrishna was the great saint who practised all these yogas and realised its perfection in this very life. He was the Great Guru who taught the world the oneness of all the different systems of yogas. Mirabhai is the striking example of bhakthiyoga. Mahathma Gandhi patronised the anasakthiyoga.
They were all great Gurus, of man kind. Infact that is the very meaning of guru-sishya relation in india. The word Guru means the ‘destroyer of darkness’ (Gu sabhdha means darkness, Ru sabhdha means destroyer).
He alone is a Guru, who has first practiced and perfected in his life, what he preached. They are infact true alchemists. Harischandra could produce a Gandhi, Buddha could produce an Asoka. Ramakrishna produced swamy vivekananda, Krishna could produce a brave Arjuna at the battle field. The Bhagavat Gita remains the eternal teaching to mankind.
And above all is what The Jagat Guru Sankaracharya has said about Dakshina moorthy, the Lord facing south
“chitram vadatharormoole vridha sishya Guror yuva
Gurosthu mounam vyakhyanam sishyasthu chinna samsayah”
A description further than this is beyond the realms of man.